The song of the week is 'In The Pines' in the key of E.
'In The Pines' is in 3/4 time (a.k.a. 'waltz time': 3 beats per measure: guitar rhythm: boom-chuck-chuck), and is usually played at a slow tempo.
The chord progression is:
In the key of E: 1=E, 4=A, 5=B
Bill Monroe - key of F
Boone Creek (Ricky Skaggs on lead vocal) - key of B: this is my favourite recorded version of 'In The Pines': notice that the chorus is shorter than on the previous version: this is the way (i.e., with the 'woo-woo-woos' mimicking the sound of the wind omitted) that I sing the song.
Peter Rowan - key of E
Melody & Breaks
The melody of In The Pines uses only the first 5 notes of the major scale. In the key of E, these notes are, from lowest to highest: E, F#, G#, A, B. However, In The Pines lends itself well to being played with more of a lonesome or bluesy feel to it than what would seem to be implied by the notes that the melody consists of. So, in both my backup playing and in my breaks, I tend to make a lot of use of b3 and b7 notes. In the key of E, those notes are G and D respectively.
For instance, when playing a melody-based break for the song, I will tend to substitute G notes in place of some of the G# notes, and in my fillin licks - both in my breaks and in my backup playing - I will tend to use D notes in spots where I would much more often use C# notes instead. Many of my fillin licks, and other licks that I might use in a break when I am not attempting to stick close to the melody, will consist solely of the notes that make up the minor pentatonic scale. The E minor pentatonic scale consists of the notes: E, G, A, B, and D
To get a feel for how one might get started in doing this for a melody-based break for 'In The Pines', I have included in the attachments, in addition to the melody as I tend to sing it (which consists of just E, F#, G#, A, and B notes), a modified 'melody' that adds 3 additional notes into the mix: G, A#, and D. When I am really going for a 'bluesy' feel in a break or in a fillin lick for 'In The Pines', I will make frequent use of the A#/Bb note as a passing note between A and B notes, whether ascending: A, A#, B, or descending: B, Bb, A. If you choose to make use of this note, be careful about how long you linger on it, for it clashes severely with all three of the chords in the song.
The 'modified melody' in the attachments is only a basic example of how one might go about making use of the three extra notes to give a lonesome or bluesy sound to one's breaks. There are many more ways in which one might make use of these notes in one's breaks (and also in one's backup playing), so I suggest experimenting with these notes a bit. You might, for instance, take some licks you already know, and try modifying them in various ways to include one or more of these notes in them. In doing this, you might find it helpful to listen closely to the Boone Creek version of 'In The Pines' - see the link below - to use as a point of reference for the kind of 'sound' or 'feel' to aim for.
Due to its slow tempo, you might find that playing 'In The Pines' at the jam affords you with a good opportunity to try to get more 8th notes - and even 8th note triplets (see the explanation below if you are not sure what 8th note triplets are) - into your breaks than what you otherwise tend to play. You might also like to use the song as an opportunity to work on improvising (i.e., making up a break on the fly), since the slow tempo allows one a bit more time to think about which note or combination of notes one might like to play next.
Swung 8ths and 8th Note Triplets
There are a couple of symbols on the melody sheets attached here that you will not see often on the melody sheets for the song of the week.
The first one, at the top of the pages, consists of a pair of 8th notes followed by an equals sign followed by three 8th notes of which the first two are tied together and the numeral '3' occurs above the three 8th notes. This means that whenever you see a pair of 8th notes in the written music, the first of the two notes is held twice as long as the second one, but together, they take up the same amount of time in the measure as what two 'ordinary' (evenly spaced) 8th notes take up. To get the feel for this, sing (or play) the melody along with the sung choruses on the youtube link provided below, making sure that your 8th notes line up with the vocal phrasing.
The numeral '3' which is placed below the staff under the group of three 8th notes in the second to last measure of the 'modified melody' indicates a triplet. Each note of an 8th note triplet lasts one-third the length of a quarter note; so, together, these three notes last the same amount of time as a single quarter note.
Guitar Tab Melody Sheets
For playing in the key of E, Bluegrass guitar players most often capo either to the 2nd fret and then play as if in D or capo to the 4th fret and then play as if in C. But, for In The Pines, as well as for many other songs in which it is desirable to make use of a lot of 'blue notes' (i.e., b3 and b7 notes) in one's playing, the 'capo 4 play as if in C' option can make doing this more awkward than what it needs to be, so I have not included a key of C melody sheet in the guitar tab attachments. (In the key of D, the b3 and b7 notes are F and C, whereas in the key of C, the b3 and b7 notes are Eb and Bb.)
However, in addition to the key of D guitar tab melody sheet, I have included a key of E melody sheet in the guitar tab attachments, since playing in the key of E without a capo lends itself at least just as well to the use of blue notes as what the 'capo 2 play as if in D' option does. If you have never tried playing a guitar break in the key of E without a capo, but would like to, I suggest that In the Pines is a good song to start with.
Note: When playing in the key of E without a capo, Bluegrass guitar players tend to play a B7 rather than a B for the '5' chord.
Banjo Tab Melody Sheet
Both the range of the melody for In The Pines and the desirability of using many 'blue notes' in one's breaks and backup playing for the song make the 'capo 2, play as if in D' option more practical than the 'capo 4, play as if in C' option. Therefore, I have included a key of D banjo tab melody sheet in the attachments, but not a key of C tab.
For banjo players using the melody sheet as a guide for creating a break: for successive 8th notes in the melody, or in fillin licks, there is no need to avoid picking the same string two or more times in a row with the same finger: the song is played slowly enough to allow one to be able to play smoothly even while temporarily breaking away from typical banjo picking patterns in cases where doing so ends up being a more straightforward and simpler option.